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Landowners study wind power deals  

CAPE VINCENT – Not all landowners who are contemplating wind turbines on their property want to enter into a contract with commercial developers.

A few Cape Vincent neighbors, with almost 500 acres between them on Bedford Corners Road, are exploring different options. If turbines do come their way, they want them to be either municipally owned or in their own names.

Hester M. Chase, who has started St. Lawrence River Public Power Association, a citizens group interested in municipal energy, is investigating the possibility of financing turbines that could be municipally owned.

Town Supervisor Thomas K. Rienbeck could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Chase said she was approached by BP Alternative Energy, which has proposed the Cape Vincent Wind Farm. BP wanted Ms. Chase to enter into a agreement to allow turbines near her property line, but she refused.

Ms. Chase, who owns 280 acres of farmland, said she will not consider a contract with a commercial wind company. Wind power should not benefit a private company, but the entire community’s interests, she said.

“I feel really strongly that we’re just giving away our resources,” Ms. Chase said. “These are just simply enormous companies that are from a long way away. They could care less about me.”

BP is one of two companies with a proposal in Cape Vincent. AES Acciona Wind Power NY has proposed the St. Lawrence Wind Farm. Both are foreign owned.

Thomas R. McGrath, one of Ms. Chase’s neighbors, agrees. BP approached Mr. McGrath about the possibility of placing six turbines on his property, but the deal, he said, did not seem fair.

Mr. McGrath, a seasonal resident who owns 193 acres of farmland, wasn’t sure how much money he would have made for each turbine with BP, but knew the benefits wouldn’t go on forever.

“In the proposal I was sent, the revenue stream would end in 20 years,” he said.

James H. Madden, project manager for Cape Vincent Wind farm, said leases typically end at 20 years because that’s the life expectancy of a wind farm. As a conservative estimate, landowners can expect to make about $5,000 a year for each turbine BP puts on their property, he said.

According to Midwest Wind Finance Inc., a Minneapolis-based company that provides financing to communities that want to establish their own wind farms, a single 2 megawatt turbine can bring in about $100,000 a year to a community or its private owner, after overhead, maintenance and insurance expenses are paid. That does not include amortization of original capital costs.

Mason V. Sorenson, manager of legal affairs for Midwest Wind Finance, said his company typically lends between $2 million and $45 million to communities or landowners that want to put up a wind farm. In about 10 years, the community or property owners have ownership of the wind farm free and clear, Mr. Sorenson said. Midwest Wind Finance has been in operation for about three years, and has not yet financed a wind farm that has come to completion, Mr. Sorenson said.

The community that wants to erect the wind farm, he said, is responsible for a huge amount of leg work. Studies are required for connecting into the electrical grid and environmental reviews. Communities need to find private contractors that will do this work, and also bear the responsibility of making sure the turbines are set up properly.

Mr. Sorenson said one of the major challenges in completing a community owned wind farm is finding the actual turbines.

“It’s pretty challenging because there is a real lack of them in the market right now,” he said.

Mr. Madden said while community owned wind projects are common in Europe, it is difficult for them to get off the ground here, where so many complicated studies are required. Electrical systems abroad are easier to hook into, he said.

“The system that we have here in this country and in New York is stacked against them,” Mr. Madden said.

Both Ms. Chase and Mr. McGrath said they would like to investigate the idea of the town owning turbines.

Mr. McGrath said municipally owned turbines may resolve some of the conflict over wind farm development, because community members would stand to gain all the profits collectively.

“That would seem much more appealing to everyone in the town, I think,” he said.

Ms. Chase said the opportunity for a community-owned wind power project would allow everyone more options in general.

By Kelly Vadney

Watertown Daily Times

2 September 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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